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Project Designs

Future Partners develops project designs for organisations that have an approved concept note or business case and are ready to work out the details of how the project will work.

Kirsty Burnett and TANGO Director Teresa Lifuka-Drecala, Tuvalu, 2020

A project design is a document that explains in detail:

  • what the project will achieve (the results or outcomes)

  • what goods and services (outputs) are needed to be produced to achieve results

  • how we expect change will happen (called a ‘theory of change’)

  • the approaches being taken to deliver results

  • the assumptions being made about the outputs and outcomes

  • the risks involved

  • how the project will be managed and governed

  • how the project will work with, and include, women and different social groups

  • how the project will protect or enhance the environment and help mitigate the effects of climate change

  • what costs are involved and when they are likely to be incurred (the budget).

Some donors have their own processes, guidelines, and forms for project designs, which organisations must comply with. We are experienced in designing projects funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), government departments and agencies in donor and partner countries, UN agencies, development banks (e.g. ADB and World Bank), crown research institutions, and the private sector. Our familiarity with these funders’ processes and language makes design work much easier and saves our clients time and potential headaches.

Our project design team works alongside our client’s team and the people that will benefit from the project. This ensures we go on the same design journey, which is vital for our clients to feel the project design is their own. Our team always includes design and MERL (monitoring, evaluation, research and learning) specialists, subject matter experts and beneficiary representatives.

When an organisation’s project design is successful, help may be needed to prepare a project implementation plan or a project inception plan to establish or manage the project. We can support or undertake this work for our clients. We can provide a surge team to support the start-up and closedown phases of the project when additional hands are often needed. We are available to respond to queries, offer advice and support project monitoring. We have a project management service, project review and evaluation service and project improvement service available at any stage during the project’s implementation, which are tailored to the needs and budget of our clients.


Kirsty Burnett has supported UNICERF Aotearoa’s work in the Pacific since 201. Her Activity design work with UNICEF Pacific and UNICEF Aotearoa is founded on best practice, and she successfully brought together UNICEF strategies, which had been adopted by partner countries, with MFAT Activity design and business processes. She’s thorough, principled and pragmatic.

Rose Fenton, former Head of International programmes at UNICEF New Zealand

Our project design service involves:

  • articulating measurable results that the project will achieve over its lifetime

  • creating a theory of change, which explains the priority results and how the project will achieve them over its lifetime

  • ensuring the project’s results and targets align with others relevant to the project (such as the government’s sector strategy or our client’s plans)

  • working with the project’s stakeholders to check that the design is feasible

  • developing a framework that our clients can easily use to monitor results and track their progress (we like to use MERL, which is a monitoring, evaluation, research and learning framework, but we can use other formats)

  • training our client’s team to use MERL methodologies and tools

  • considering the risks to implementing the project and achieving the results, and planning ways to manage and mitigate those risks

  • creating a project budget

  • preparing a plan to implement the project

  • developing a plan to communicate information and news about the project

  • designing mechanisms, and assigning roles and responsibilities, to govern and manage the project (this includes preparing the terms of reference for boards and job descriptions for key roles)

  • understanding the donor’s payment and reporting schedule, so that the designed activities and budget match the donor’s tranche payments and reporting deadlines

  • compiling the design document using our template, or our client’s template.

Read about how our project design service has helped organisations get their project designs approved and funded.


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